Many things are best when heated.
Italian bread. Fluffy towels. Apple pie. Unspayed feral cats.
Yes. If you’re going to hang with a feral female cat, she’ll be more open to your friendship if she’s in heat.
OK, so that’s where the metaphor breaks down just a little. You wouldn’t exactly say a warm loaf of bread is “in heat”…but I guess you could. (People might think you were just learning English: “This bread is in heat. Bread heap good.” But I digress.)
It’s an indisputable fact, frequently pointed out by the eminent Dr. Collins, that a female cat outdoors is one of only three things at any given time: pregnant, nursing or spayed. People joke about rabbits’ baby-making speed, but they ain’t got nothin’ on cats. Female felines’ heat cycles can repeat as often as every 2-3 weeks, and it’s not long after delivering kittens that a new mama cat will again be…well, all het up.
At Tabby’s Place, we strongly (and loudly, and frequently) advocate spaying and neutering all cats, and we won’t adopt out any cat or kitten without fixing him first. Given the number of homeless cats out there, there’s simply no good reason not to spay or neuter - and many, many, many good reasons to do so. Still, ferals continue to find one another, and so we continue to rescue mamas with their kittens. And that’s where things can get a bit…heated. The hormones of the heat cycle can make even the feral-est female marshmallowy-sweet…at least, while the heat is on.
So you take one feral cat. Add the magical, mystical hormones of a heat cycle, piled onto the warm, fuzzy feelings of having just delivered kittens. (Methinks even Hannibal Lecter would become a Care Bear if he’d just delivered kittens.) Yield: one batch of completely confused humans: Is she friendly? Sure seems friendly. Maybe she’s born with it…maybe it’s estrus.
Case in point: Cypress. When the quirky girl with the question-mark-shaped tail first came to Tabby’s Place, she was high on a feeling - and nursing babies Pogo and Roo. The unspayed Cypress was as sweet as pudding - almost weirdly-affectionate, in fact (”weirdly-affectionate” being the calling card of a female cat in heat). But once those kittens were weaned and that uterus was removed, Cypress became…well, cooler in her affections towards humans. (I use the word “affections” extremely loosely.)
This all makes for a bit of a mystery every time we take in a mama cat. Many - Wendy, Bunny - only get sweeter post-spay. Call these girls naturally warm - the heat cycle just heightened their true colors. Others - Cypress, Gorgonzola, Marischka - are only interested in humans short-term. Lest we take their “heated” interest personally, our female cats in heat are equally enamored of stuffed toys, cardboard boxes, and - in a pinch - the walls of a crate. Heat makes a cat feel all kinds of feelings for everyone and everything. But, they are who they are, and in the absence of heat, some of ‘em are just not interested in being mooshed.
This month’s mystery is a darling little mama named LaFawnduh. Our petite tabby girl came in with three kittens - Pedro, Deb and Sommer* - and her personality has been wall-to-wall rainbows and unicorns since her arrival. Is LaFawnduh in heat? Yes - in a major way. Is she also one of the sweetest, snuggliest creatures ever born on the face of the earth? Only time will tell.
But heated, cooled or room-temperature, one thing is certain: we already love LaFawnduh exactly the way she is…and however she’ll choose to be when the heat’s turned down, too.
*Bonus points and sparkly cupcakes to the first person who can peg the source of LaFawnduh’s family’s names.
PS: LaFawnduh et al are a little too new to be ready for their close-ups…but I promise to share their cuteness as soon as they’re photo-ready.